WTF Did I Just Watch A.K.A. Thoughts On ‘Taboo’

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I made it through the entirety of Tom Hardy’s television series, Taboo. Believe me, it was a struggle, but I managed to finish the first season. Taboo has an interesting premise. It is a Victorian era drama about James Delaney (Tom Hardy) a man presumed dead in Africa. But to the surprise of everyone, James returns to England after his father’s death to claim his shipping empire.

I am a huge Tom Hardy fan, so of course I was going to watch this show no matter what. Tom is a fine actor and I was impressed that he created the concept for the series with his father, Chips Hardy. I also enjoy Victorian dramas quite a bit as they are usually dark and gritty. Taboo does well to depict the grim realities of life in the Victorian age. But unfortunately as a whole the show is messy and a huge disappointment.

The biggest problem for Taboo is the character of James Delaney. He is the protagonist of the show, yet he has no redeeming qualities. He often references how horrible he is and the horrible things he has done. He sees everyone around him as a tool to be used. He doesn’t seem to care about money, yet he is willing to do anything and to kill anyone to have possession of his father’s shipping company. Delaney doesn’t even care about his own son! He says he cares about his sister, Zilpha, but his actions say otherwise. It is impossible to connect with Delaney or to care what happens to him. As a result, it is impossible to care about anything that happens on Taboo.

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Oona Chaplin as Zilpha Geary.

There is one character on Taboo that I have sympathized with: Zilpha Geary as played by Oona Chaplin (Whom I will never forgive for ruining Robb Stark). Now, James and Zilpha have had a complicated relationship. It isn’t fleshed out very well (as nothing is on this show). But it is revealed that at one time they had an incestuous relationship. Zilpha did not want to be with James though and married another man while James was in Africa. When James comes back to England his mission, other than obtaining his father’s shipping empire, seems to be to win Zilpha back. Yes, the fact that it is incest makes the whole scenario icky. But James’s love of Zilpha is the only human quality he possesses, so I accepted it.

Zilpha kills her husband after he puts her through an extremely disturbing exorcism in an attempt to exorcise James from her mind. Zilpha finally gives in to her desire to be with James. But he rebukes her. I have absolutely no idea why he rejects her (seriously someone please explain this to me). James’s rejection of Zilpha crushes her. So the season finale opens with Zilpha committing suicide.

WTF!!!!! Why?!?!?!?! It makes no sense to me to build this character up throughout the whole season. To have her struggle with herself and against her bastard husband. To then just unceremoniously kill her off. Zilpha was immensely important to the show. James Delaney as a character has no redeeming qualities. His love of Zilpha is the only emotion he ever shows. Even though their relationship was sick, I was rooting for them. It gave me something to hope for. Zilpha was the only character on the entire show to be fleshed out at all. She was sympathetic, a quality that is much needed in a show filled with horrible people.

James has such little emotional capacity that even Zilpha’s death gets hardly any reaction from him. He sits and mopes and grunts, but that’s it. THIS WAS THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE. But Taboo quickly moves on to explosions and shootouts because who needs character development???

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Tom Hardy as James Delaney.

Taboo never explores the issues that might elevate it above forgettable melodrama. The incest issue is given next to no consideration. Zilpha struggles with it, but James doesn’t give it a second thought. Until he rejects her. Then there is the mystery of James’s son. Is Zilpha the mother? Why does James not care for him? (That’s easy: James doesn’t care for anyone). Also is James crazy? Or does he really possess some voodoo magic? Again we will never know! All that the writers want to focus on is James’s battle against the East India Company, which is the least compelling element of the show.

I have been ambiguous about Taboo for the most part. I have watched every episode neither glued to the screen, nor completely bored. That is until I watched the season finale. It enraged me so much I wanted to turn the television off and ‘Eternal Sunshine’ this show from my memory. What a huge waste of time Taboo is.

James Delaney is a problem that I don’t believe the show writers will be able to fix if there is a second season. The writers had enough sense to kill off about two thirds of the cast in the last 10 minutes. But that won’t be enough to save this mess of a show. Don’t waste your time on Taboo. 3 top hats out of 10

Tidbits:

  • One thing I do love is Taboo’s title sequence. Beautiful imagery and music.
  • Why is the show so visually dark? I understand it’s the Victorian era, all dark and smoky, but I can’t see anything!
  • I also can’t hear anything. Tom please speak up and stop mumbling!
  • Can we talk about the King and his horrible makeup/fat suit? Laughably horrible prosthetics.
  • Tom does look awfully cool walking around in a top hat though.
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Tom Hardy as James Delaney.
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In Praise of Timothy Olyphant: Santa Clarita Diet

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Eeek it has been so long since I did a blog post! I’ve been quite busy this last year. Honestly I have also been lazy and uninspired to write about anything. But that has changed since last night when I watched the first four episodes of Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix.

Santa Clarita Diet is a suburban zombie comedy that recently premiered on Netflix. Joel and Sheila Hammond (Timothy Olyphant and Drew Barrymore) are realtors whose quiet lives get upset when Sheila suddenly becomes a zombie. As I watched the show I couldn’t help but be amazed by Timothy Olyphant and his comedic chops. I have loved him as a dramatic actor for a few years now. And anyone who has seen him make an appearance on Conan knows that he is a naturally funny guy in real life. There is some dark humor to Raylan Givens on Justified. But it is nothing like the gross out and physical humor that is on Santa Clarita Diet.

It amazes me that someone who has played Seth Bullock (Deadwood) so brilliantly can also play realtor Joel Hammond with so much alacrity and ease. Bullock is so serious and dead set on dishing out justice. As is Timothy’s other great dramatic television character, Raylan Givens. Timothy is a master at playing on subtlety in his inflection and physical presence. He owns the screen, but in a quiet subdued way.

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That wonderful Seth Bullock stare.

Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that an actor as talented as Timothy can pull off a show like Santa Clarita Diet. But it seems to be a difficult feat for most actors to accomplish. They either fall into the dramatic or comedic sandbox, rarely playing within both categories. Comedic timing and physical humor can be difficult to pull off. But Timothy does it brilliantly with his quick dialogue and genius use of his brilliant smile.

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Timothy Olyphant as Joel Hammond and Drew Barrymore as Sheila Hammond on Santa Clarita Diet.

So far I am thoroughly enjoying Santa Clarita Diet. As a whole the show is funny with some shocking (and often gross) humor. Some people may initially think that Drew Barrymore is the star of the show. And while her role is integral, it is really Timothy Olyphant that has to do all the heavy lifting. Drew’s performance is a little dead and flat feeling. Some of that is probably intentional (she is a zombie after all). But her Sheila Hammond is a difficult character to connect to. Not just for the audience, but also for the characters on the show. That is why it is important for Timothy to connect with the audience instead. We sympathize with his struggle to coexist with his zombie wife. Even if we are also laughing at each disastrous scenario his wife puts him through.  Timothy Olyphant’s charming smile carries us through even when we are thinking WTF!!!

I strongly encourage you to give Santa Clarita Diet a try. As well as Timothy’s dramatic work in Deadwood and Justified. Do you have a favorite actor that can play both dramatic and comedic roles?

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Why Do Good Shows Get Cancelled?: The Red Road

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I suppose the simple answer to that question is they don’t make enough money. But it is such a shame when there is so much potential within these shows. I only heard about The Red Road after it was cancelled by its network, the Sundance channel, and it showed up on Netflix.
Initially I was drawn in just by the appeal of watching Jason Momoa (I still miss Khal Drogo). But quickly other aspects of the show grasped me. The Red Road is about many things, but it is essentially about the tenuous alliance between Phillip Kopus (Jason Momoa), a member of a Native American tribe, and Harold Jensen (Martin Henderson), a white police officer that patrols the reservation and neighboring community.

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The Red Road tackles two very interesting issues that rarely get covered in mainstream media. First, there is the lives and issues of Native Americans. The characters are all very well formed and never veer into becoming stereotypes. It is also interesting to see the Native community cope with the problem of preserving their own way of life or whether they need to assimilate into Western culture in order to survive.
The show also delves into exploring mental illness, something that I think needs more coverage like this in society. Harold’s wife, Jean (Julianne Nichlolson), suffers from schizophrenia. It is one of the best depictions of mental illness that I have seen. How can Jean and her family cope with this illness that she has hidden for years? Can the stigma of mental illness be erased from society? I wish there was more work like this that could bring attention to these issues in a thoughtful manner.

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I also love The Red Road for its great cast and fast paced plot. Each season is only six episodes long, so every moment counts. There were quite a few shocking moments as well as very humorous ones. Jason Momoa is a real star here. I have heard people say that he can’t act; that he can only play Khal Drogo type characters. But here as Phillip Kopus Jason holds the whole show together and displays a wide range of talent. He is menacing, but also caring in his own way. His comedic timing is brilliant and he also uses his physicality extremely well.
I hope that this post may convince some of you to give this show a chance. It is very entertaining and worth your while. It is currently on Netflix (at least here in Canada). The second season ends on a real cliff hanger, so I am hoping that some way the show will be able to return for a third season, maybe through Netflix. And after watching this series I am more excited for the upcoming Aquaman film than ever before.

Who is Walton Goggins? Justified and The Hateful Eight

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Well, he is one of the most talented actors working today and probably hardly anyone knows his name. Although that is sure to change after the release of Quentin Tarantino’s western, The Hateful Eight.
When you look up Walton Goggins on IMDB the film that first comes up next to his name is Django Unchained. I find that extremely funny because he has quite a small part in that film and he has done much more substantial work. He is one of those character actors that you have probably seen in many works, but you just don’t know his name. His best work is mostly on TV; The Shield, Sons of Anarchy, Justified. But now Walton is (arguably) the star of The Hateful Eight.

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In The Hateful Eight, Walton Goggins plays Chris Mannix. Chris has the most lines of any character in the film (and that’s A LOT of lines since it’s a Tarantino movie). Quentin specifically wrote the part for Walton. That’s pretty amazing, especially since Walton isn’t a very high profile actor.
But he deserves to be, and hopefully now he will get the attention he deserves. I recently started watching Justified not too long ago (I’m only on the fourth season still, so no spoilers!). Justified is a very good show that really hits its stride in its third and fourth seasons. The show hinges on the relationship between Raylan Givens (played by the wonderful Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). It is so interesting to watch these two amazing characters/actors face off against each other. Raylan is a Deputy Marshall and Boyd is a hillbilly criminal mastermind. Often times the two are struggling against each other, but they also have moments when they are allies. Their interactions always feel organic and it is hard to know which character to root for. Walton has this great cadence as he plays Boyd. When Boyd speaks it feels as though the audience is being treated to a piece of poetry. Hard to believe when faced with Boyd’s appearance of wild hair and swastika tattoos. Walton creates so many layers to this character; Boyd is someone to be feared, but he also has a sympathetic heart at times. And he is also very funny. Boyd does terrible things at times, but when he proposes to Eva, his brother’s widow over a stack of drug money, you can’t help but feel your eyes tear up and hope that everything turns out the way Boyd wants it to. There are a million reasons to dislike Boyd, but Walton’s acting instead makes you love him.

When I was watching The Hateful Eight I was so excited when Walton came on the screen. I was so looking forward to hearing his lovely voice a la Boyd Crowder. After all, both Boyd and Chris Mannix are southern boys, so I figured Walton would play them in a similar way. But I was dead wrong. I was disappointed at first because Chris’s voice isn’t as poetic as Boyd’s. But Chris still has some of that same charm. I am amazed actually by how different Boyd and Chris are. The two characters are completely distinct from each other and both are quite amazing. The Hateful Eight is a very good film (not Tarantino’s best, but still good). I found the film lacks energy at times, but whenever the attention shifts to Walton suddenly everything becomes lively again. Chris seems to always be playing everyone else in the room and it makes me wonder whether he actually really was the sheriff.
Walton imbues Chris with all these little nuances and effectively steals every scene he is in. If you didn’t know who Walton Goggins was before, you’ll never forget him after The Hateful Eight.

The Worst Movie I Have Ever Seen: Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996)

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Normally I find it hard to be harsh in my reviews of films. I try to find redeeming qualities even in movies I hate. But this morning I had the misfortune of watching Norma Jean & Marilyn. This movie is the most atrocious thing I have seen in my whole life. All across the board horrid.

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I’m not a huge Marilyn fan, but I enjoy some of her films and I happen to have read Norman Mailer’s biography (of sorts) on her. So I know her story. This movie completely distorts her life story and the plot is all muddled and confusing.

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Marilyn is schizophrenic (pretty sure she wasn’t in real life), constantly arguing with her ‘Norma Jean’ self. The dialogue is blunt and unimaginative and filled with garbage. It’s hard to decide who is worse, Mira Sorvino (who I loved in Mighty Aphrodite) as Marilyn or Ashley Judd as Norma Jean.
Simply put, just don’t watch this horrible movie.
For the curious here are a few horrifying clips:

(Don’t even get me started on that terrible JFK)

Tom Hardy proves he is LEGENDary

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Even though I haven’t been blogging lately that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching anything. I saw Sicario, The Martian, and finally started watching Game of Thrones. But nothing has really intrigued me enough to write about it. Until last night when I saw Legend, a film about London’s infamous Kray twins.

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Legend itself isn’t a very good a film. It’s okay. The main problem is that it can’t decide what it wants to be. A gangster film or a romance? It really fails at the romantic elements, but the gangster bits are good. I think that if they had cut out almost everything to do with Frances (Emily Browning) the movie would have been a lot better (and shorter, it’s a tad too long). I had no sympathy for Frances and just found her annoying. Oh, woe is me, I married a gangster and he does gangster stuff and leaves me alone at night. Didn’t see that coming! Everything about Frances has been done before and it was just plain boring. I understand that the writer wanted to create this struggle between Frances and Ronald over Reggie, but it just doesn’t work.

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But the Kray twins, Ron and Reggie (both played by Tom Hardy) are quite a bit of fun. In this film, Tom Hardy proves yet again that he is one of the best actors of his generation. I had some doubts back when I watched the trailer in May. I thought maybe Tom was overacting, especially as Ronald. But it turns out that I was very wrong. Tom is able to create these two very distinct and different characters. They are both fully formed and interesting. Reggie is suave, smooth, the brains of the operation. Ronald is chaotic, awkward, and all over the place. They are both oddly charming in their own ways. The thing that amazed me the most was I completely forgot that it was Tom Hardy playing both parts, I was just so absorbed in these characters. There is only one moment where Tom sort of wavered for me as Ron since I felt like his voice was going into Bane territory. But other than that he is superb as Ron, I loved all the little mannerisms. And Tom was also surprisingly funny in both roles.
Legend gets 7/10, but Tom Hardy gets 10/10.

 

Black Mass (2015) AKA Can Johnny Win Back My Love?

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Back in April I gave my initial thoughts on Black Mass and Johnny Depp after seeing the first trailer for the film. Well, the time has finally come to pass down my judgement on Johnny. Does Johnny electrify the screen as real life gangster Whitey Bulger? Will he restore his reputation as one of the all-time greats?

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The answer is… Johnny and his film fall somewhere in the middle: neither amazing nor bad. Overall I really enjoyed Black Mass and Johnny Depp, but neither wowed me. Johnny gives a very good performance; menacing, charming, funny. The makeup and costuming seem to enhance his performance instead of distracting from it. It’s the closest Johnny has come to playing a genuine human being in a long time.
The fault with the film, which also hurts Depp, is that it is told neither from Whitey’s POV nor from John Connolly’s (played by the delicious Joel Edgerton). Whitey, of course, did not participate in the making of the film and has basically shit all over it and Depp (without having seen it). And since Connolly wouldn’t even testify against Whitey in real life, I highly doubt he contributed anything. This has a great effect on the film as neither Whitey nor Connolly is the main character, instead switching between the two constantly and relying constantly on the accounts of other characters. Because of this the film seems to have nothing to say. It is a great collection of some neat scenes and performances, but there is no direction to it. Is Whitey good, bad, a bit of both? Is Connolly? Yes, Connolly has a strong attachment to Whitey because of their childhood, but there must be a little more to it than that. The film does not explore any of this, instead just skimming the surface of the two men’s lives.

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This lack of depth is what keeps the film from becoming anything other than pretty good. Joel Edgerton was the highlight for me as at least his character evolves and changes, unlike Whitey who remains static. Although the film acts as though he changes after two significant deaths in his life, but that change never comes across very well. The cast is all stellar except for Benedict Cumberbatch (he’s okay, but pretty much just a glorified cameo). I liked Black Mass, but it is just a Scorsese wannabe. 7 Joel Edgerton pouts out of 10.

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And yes, Johnny did kind of win my love back. Just a little. (It’s so hard not to like the guy and he still has those killer cheekbones).

What Sherise Has been Watching/Reading Lately

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While I may not be actively posting reviews these days (it’s so hard when you work 6 days in a row!) it doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching anything. So here’s a brief recap on what I’ve been watching/reading and my thoughts.
I haven’t been watching very many movies. But I have seen Rush for the millionth time; I think it’s just amazing and always absorbing. Daniel Brühl = ❤

This morning I watched Top Gun for the first time. Its total 80s fop and completely ridiculous. But Tom Cruise was so gorgeous and tanned back then… it’s hard to not fall in love with his big smile.
This might be a somewhat surprising choice, but over the last two weeks I have binge watched the first season of Sailor Moon! Relatively recently they redubbed the anime series and have been slowly releasing new DVDs. I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the show! I absolutely loved it as a kid (seriously, I had Sailor Moon everything) so it was nostalgic. But I think it is also genuinely good and very funny. The new dub isn’t a kids show, instead preserving the original Japanese elements that were cut out of the 90s version. Most of the changes are for the better, but there are still things I miss from the 90s (meatball head > bun head).

Ray Donovan had its season finale this past Sunday night. I feel it ended on a rather mediocre note. Stuff happened, nothing really surprising or pleasing. Bunchy and Teresa are now my favorite characters as they seem more genuine than the rest of the show which has become a soap opera. I’ll still be watching season 4 next year though (you can never separate me from Liev, never!)
How to Get Away with Murder returned last week with its season 2 premiere. I found it interesting, but, like Ray Donovan, becoming a soap opera (although it has kind of always been one). The reveal of Rebecca’s murderer seemed way too soon and brief (I thought they would drag it out over the season). And Annalise’s relationship with Jean Grey (don’t know her real name, don’t care) felt extremely contrived. I’m going to keep watching the show, but I think it is starting to become unintentionally hilarious and takes itself way too seriously.

As for what I’m reading, well I have dipped into a few different books. I am absolutely loving and obsessing over Ronda Rousey’s biography My Fight/Your Fight. I love that it is a mix of biography and self-help tips. The book is very funny, interesting and above all inspiring. I’m going to the gym more, I’m not taking shit from anyone, I’m being more optimistic. And that is all largely due to Ronda’s book, I couldn’t recommend it more.
I have also started reading a book on Bob Dylan (so good), The Girl in the Spider’s Web (one good chapter into it so far), and just yesterday I bought The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin. I also finished reading Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon comic book series which has made me a huge fan of comics. His artwork is amazing and the series constantly makes me laugh out loud. I can’t wait for Skottie’s new series, Rocket and Groot.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m off to see Black Mass tonight, so look forward to seeing that review as soon as I can get it up.

The Man from Uncle and Quick Ray Donovan Review

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Sorry I’ve been absent from blogging lately, but as we all know, life happens. I haven’t been watching too much lately (other than speeding through some Sopranos which is for a future post), but I did manage to see Guy Ritchie’s film adaptation of The Man from Uncle.
The premise of the film is right up my alley: two cold war spies, one American and one Russian, team up to take on some generic bad guys. The film ended up being fairly average overall. The plot was okay and the film was never boring. But it was also never exciting. I really enjoyed the chemistry between the three leads and that’s why I hope there will be a sequel. Armie Hammer is brilliant even if his Russian accent isn’t always perfect. Henry Cavill looks beautiful and he displays a lot of charisma, something that he wasn’t able to show in Man of Steel. The two men bounce off each other quite well and carry the film. Alicia Vikander is good as per usual, but she is nowhere near as good as she was in Ex Machina. She is serviceable, but other than some scenes with Armie she doesn’t elevate the film at all. The worst part of the movie: the editing. At times it was very bizarre and the flashbacks to five seconds before hand seemed unnecessary. The Man from Uncle gets 6.5/10.

Teresa (Alyssa Diaz) and Bunchy Donovan (Dash Mihok).
Teresa (Alyssa Diaz) and Bunchy Donovan (Dash Mihok).

Ray Donovan: Season 3 So Far…
I haven’t been posting about Ray Donovan because it’s been so…dull. Things have picked up a little with the last few episodes. But I recently re-watched season 2. It was a great season because by about the third or fourth episode the stakes felt very high. So everything that happened was exciting and felt vital. Season 3 got to about episode 7 or 8 before it became mildly exciting. The characters all seem to be spinning their wheels. Other than Bunchy and his new bride, Teresa. Bunchy has evolved into a stronger character that I really wasn’t expecting. And I love the way Teresa talks to Ray and stands up for Bunchy. The last episode, “The Octopus,” was touching as Ray gave Bunchy away to Teresa (figuratively, not literally). The episode was also good because there were no Finneys. Katie Holmes, and yes, even the wonderful Ian McShane, have been very disappointing.

Genre Grandeur – Cul-de-Sac (1966) – The Girl Who Loved to Review

Sorry I’ve been on a blogging hiatus recently. Hopefully I’ll get something up in the next couple of days. For now here’s a review of one of my favorite Polanski films (I always say that) Cul-de-Sac.

B&WFor this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Black & White Movies, here’s a review of Cul-de-Sac (1966) by Sherise of The Girl That Loved to Review

Thanks again to Steven of Past Present Future TV and Film. for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Sherise of The Girl That Loved to Review.  We will be reviewing our favorite movies from the 1970’s. Please get me your submissions by the 25th of September by sending them to 70sfilms@movierob.net  Try to think out of the box! Great choice Sherise!

Let’s see what Sherise thought of this movie:

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culThis is a relatively unknown film, which is a shame as it is one of the best dark comedies I have ever seen. Cul-de-Sac is Roman Polanski’s second English language film. It was made just two years before he would break into Hollywood with Rosemary’s…

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